With Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston. Written by Dan Mazeau & David Leslie Johnson. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action). 99 minutes.
WRATH OF THE TITANS is Exhibit A in how movies are being ruined by CGI (computer generated imagery). Traditionally, special effects bowled over audiences whether it was “King Kong,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Jason And The Argonauts” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We knew what we were seeing wasn’t real, but there it was on screen. How did they do it? Often the story behind the effect was as interesting as the film itself.
Then came CGI. No one’s claiming it’s easy to do, and there are often moments where one gasps at the seamless brilliance of the technology or the immersive effect it creates. Yet the problem was that CGI made everything possible. If you could imagine it, someone could figure out how to create it on screen. As a result, what once would have been considered eye-popping special effects becomes simply another example of rote, point-and-click computer wizardry.
The answer to that is to have a story and characters that are so compelling that the effects simply enhance our sense of wonder. Alas, “Wrath Of The Titans” is a formulaic story loosely constructed from bits of Greek mythology, with a cast given little to do other than react to the computer generated effects to-be-inserted later. The result is a non-engaging and ultimately uninteresting film. You might admire the artistry of the CGI, you will not care about the outcome of the story.
Perseus (Sam Worthington) learns that the ancient gods are no longer being worshipped and are fading away. This is bad news for his father Zeus (Liam Neeson), but good news for the opportunistic god Ares (Édgar Ramírez) who is joining forces with the ancient Titans to take over the world. Zeus’s brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) also seems to think this might be a good deal for the gods. So for most of the film the humans, the gods, and the demi-gods (of human/god parentage) battle it out.
The problem for the viewer is that nothing is at stake. We know that the Titans can’t win. (If you’re not sure why, look around you.) We don’t care about the gods, with Neeson and Fiennes sleepwalking through their roles, as does Danny Huston appearing briefly as Poseidon. Perseus is concerned about his young son and seems to have the hots for warrior princess Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) but at no time does any of this matter. The script and story (credited to a grand total of four writers) is wretched, and director Jonathan Liebesman seems to think he can overcome this defect through the dazzling special effects. So there are various creatures, including Pegasus the flying horse, and the monstrous Kronos, chief of the Titans, but we can only wish that there was a story worthy of these visuals.
The only real point to “Wrath Of The Titans” is to a) capitalize on the box office on the 2010 remake of “Clash Of The Titans” and b) show off the special effects. However, without a coherent plot or interesting characters, those special effects simply underscore the fact that since just about anything is possible utilizing CGI, effects alone cannot save the movie. For all its sound and fury, this is a decidedly dull affair.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.